Welcome back to another day of NHL Predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey takes a look at the games that are happening and gives our predictions for each one, breaking down head-to-head and other factors that may play in. We also have a featured game of the day, which is considered must-watch TV. Today’s featured game is the Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers.
NHL Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
Colorado Avalanche vs Ottawa Senators
Head-to-Head: Avalanche 1-0 Senators
Our first game on the NHL Predictions features two teams in playoff position. Colorado’s season went down about as far from any plan as could be anticipated. With a wealth of significant, long-term injuries to star players and the supporting cast alike, they struggled to really gain traction. Despite all of this, the Avs remain destined for another postseason berth, thanks in large part to Mikko Rantanen (43 goals and 78 points in 65 games as of this writing). Plus, their strength of schedule the rest of the way ranks easiest in the entire NHL. They can definitely climb further upwards before the season ends.
Their opponent tonight sits firmly in the “disrupter” category out East. The Senators entered the year regarded as a potential breakout candidate, winding down their rebuild. They cling to an outside shot at a playoff berth, as one of seven teams with a real chance to earn a wild card spot. That said, they sit towards the bottom of the pack. They added Jakob Chychrun at the deadline to bolster the blue line. Lucky for them, he has another three seasons on his contract, whether they make it to the postseason this year or not.
The future looks very bright in Ottawa. However, the present looks just as bright, if not brighter, in Denver. Oh, they also shut out the Sens in their only meeting earlier this year, by a whopping 7-0 margin.
Prediction: Avalanche win 8-3
Montreal Canadiens vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Canadiens 0-2 Panthers
Our next game on the NHL Predictions is an Atlantic division showdown. All year long, Florida sat behind the eightball. As other teams found their groove, Florida floundered. Yes, Matthew Tkachuk looks phenomenal, and Carter Verhaeghe keeps upping his new career-highs playing on his line. However, Aleksander Barkov frankly hasn’t looked like his usual self. Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett and Anton Lundell all had stronger campaigns last season, too. And Florida hasn’t occupied a playoff spot at any point all season long.
This is the same team that won the President’s Trophy last year. All that aside, don’t turn the lights off in Florida quite yet. Anthony Duclair missed the whole year until just recently, and continues ramping up entering what will be his seventh game tonight. Sergei Bobrovsky looks better now than he has at any point since arriving in Florida, at least over the past month or two. They need these two points against Montreal, and frankly should pick them up against the worst team in their division.
Montreal will be better, just not today and probably not tomorrow, either. Their rebuild remains young, and their roster even younger. Florida has to capitalize on that tonight to gain some ground in the wild card race. If they want to squeak in, they likely need to win over 60% of their remaining games. The group they compete against is deep, too, so even that might not be enough. Expect a desperate team tonight to find a way to pick up two points.
Predictions: Panthers win 5-0
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Lightning 1-0 Devils
Our next game on the NHL Predictions is a rematch from the other night. Typically, teams within the same conference face off against one another three or more times per season. For Tampa and New Jersey, all three of those matchups occur within a six day span. Just two nights ago, the Lightning took game one. Tonight features game two, and then game three takes place this Sunday. (Strangely, they both play different opponents Saturday.)
New Jersey blew expectations out of the water this year, and want to do the same down the stretch into the postseason. They are led up front by Jack Hughes, having a career-best season across every category. Meanwhile the Lightning, while well within the playoff picture, haven’t been quite as dominant as they looked over the past few seasons. For now, both teams stand tall; that said, they might just be moving in opposite directions.
New Jersey keeps rising. The Lightning might be about to fall. Look for New Jersey to get some revenge tonight and put a stamp on their reputation.
Prediction: Devils win 4-2
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Penguins 2-0 Rangers
Just when people start counting out the Penguins, they find a way. Yes, Sidney Crosby is now 35 years old. Yes, his long-time teammates Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are just as old. And yes, their deadline acquisitions (Nick Bonino and Mikael Granlund) sit in their 30’s too, with their best years behind them. A couple weeks ago, Pittsburgh clung to a wild card spot. Now, they sit in the driver seat of the wild card race and continue piling up wins in March.
The Rangers remain well inside the top six out East; those six teams separated themselves from the rest of the conference quite some time ago. If any team can catch up, its Pittsburgh; but even for them, the gap looks too wide for the small number of games remaining to be played. New York isn’t content, either. That much was clear when they added Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane just before the trade deadline.
Kane looks more and more comfortable on Broadway with each passing game. Tarasenko slid right in and fits like a glove. This is a team that already possessed Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck on offence. The rich got richer, and tonight’s battle is an absolute “show of force”. Between these two squads sit many of the greatest NHL hockey players of the last decade. Sit back and enjoy.
Prediction: Penguins win 4-3 in OT
Main Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The post NHL Predictions: March 16 with Penguins vs Rangers appeared first on Last Word On Hockey.